There is nothing like meeting a life-long idol who, when all is said and done, does not disappoint.
The Bolywood king and I
I didn't ask for a hug. Or an autograph. Or a photo. I didn't even tell him that the first poster I ever bought in my life at the age of 11 was of him. When my cousin came to stay, and slept in my room, he complained to my mother about sleeping under the feet of Shah Rukh Khan. Last week, I sat down with the man I have been a fan of since he first appeared on a tiny screen in my parents' bedroom over 22 years ago. Which is to say, I have been his fan for more than half my life.
During the interview, we talked about the time he starred in his first television series, Fauji (Soldier), in 1998. While he was still in college, he was already acting as an irreverent soldier on TV. Back then, I would come home from boarding school during my holidays and sit hunched over in front of the only television in the house (black and white) and watch his shows intently (it carried on until the next year, when he starred in another TV show called Circus). My mother, obviously noting my first celebrity crush, flippantly promised to marry me off to him. I'm glad I didn't hold her to it because, as it turns out, while he was busy doing theatre in college, he was also wooing his high school sweetheart, whom he married and now has two children with. Like I ever stood a chance! My grown-up self feels embarrassed to admit that once upon a time I indulged in such girlish dreams.
Over the years, I have gained a better perspective on things, including some of his films. I haven't seen every single one of them, as most of his fans gathered in Emirates Palace last Wednesday night claimed to have done. And I certainly haven't liked every single one that I have seen, either. So technically, my claim as a top-notch fangirl is shaky at best. But that is not to say I had ever stopped admiring him for his work and what he has become: the king of Bollywood and coincidentally the co-owner of a cricket team from the city in which I was born (I didn't tell him that either).
We had a conversation and then another brief one on the red carpet amid the frantic fans who were threatening to break down security barriers to get to their idol. Journalism can make us jaded and affect our ability to enjoy a moment of pure happiness upon meeting an idol. So it took me 24 hours to register my fangirl moment. And even then it was muted. Just a tiny "woohoo!" inside my head.